The Climate Of Grief

Every storm runs out of rain. Maya Angelou

The Italian cypress trees by the front door sashay in the storm. Bending forward, then lurching upright, the tall towers dance with the wild wind. Moving one green arm, then another in time with the chaotic cadence of the rain. Weathering the ferocious gusts that howl and rattle our windows. Despite the onslaught of Sacramento’s recent storm, in the morning, they are standing still. Guarding the entrance to the house like sentries. Supple yet strong. Battered and bruised, but erect, reaching up toward the dark gray sky.

An atmospheric storm is a lot like grief. The way it barges in in the early days, threatening to crack you in two or drive you to your knees. Unrelenting as the pounding rain. Loud as thunder. Jagged and bright like lightening, exposing every crack in your marriage, your friendships, your belief about who you are. There’s no controlling or outrunning grief. All you can do is wrap yourself in the love of the friends and family who have stayed close, hunker down and wait for the worst to pass. Until drowning in your own sorrow is no longer an option. Until the pull of the world is stronger than the desire to join your beloved who’s died.

Sometimes grief rolls in like San Francisco fog, covering every familiar landmark, settling into corners, obscuring the whole sky. Foggy grief is heavy, onerous to maneuver, impassable. The thick wet mist weighs down your muscles and slows your brain, making it hard to find light, color or joy. Shrouding all but the most painful memories, the clammy chill makes it difficult to get warm and getting out of bed all but impossible.

Once you learn to find patches of blue sky, grief gets sneaky like a spring snowstorm that appears out of nowhere. Moving swiftly and silently, you don’t see it coming until it blankets the ground. Wet, sloppy flakes tapping you on the shoulder, reminding you of where you made mistakes, failed your loved one, lost sight of your better self. Of the times a close friend turned her head, let you down, walked away. Like steam from the perspiring pavement, rage rises from the still open wounds.

In time, you learn to weather each change as their patterns and behavior grow more familiar. You’re able to greet grief and invite it in, regardless of whether it blusters or breezes, knowing you can’t stop it, no matter how much you try but knowing, too, that it carries memories of your loved one with it. It becomes a familiar, if unwelcome, companion in the leaky, storm shelter you’ve constructed over time. You still get wet, but you no longer fear that you’ll freeze or melt. The harsh climates you’ve endured have exposed others who’ve survived their own storms, learning to bend but never break. To stay soft and remain open. You reach out to each other, offer shelter, share umbrellas and venture out together, raising your arms toward the sky.

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